Panerai began making watches in Florence, Italy back in 1860, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that the firm produced its first wristwatch. By then its roots in Florence were as deep as those in Switzerland, where Panerai watches were produced.
The breakthrough for the company was an order for diving watches from the Italian Navy, for whom Panerai had been creating instruments of various types since the turn of the century. With a war coming on, the navy was keen to outfit its elite corps of frogmen with wristwatches.
Featuring a Rolex movement, the limited-edition Panerai Radiomir (only 300 were made) was designed for use by commandos and torpedo riders—frogmen who rode a slow-moving torpedo toward a target before attaching a timed mine to the underside of a ship and then riding away. The watches had a cushion-shaped case, a screw-down crown to keep water out of the movement, and oiled-leather straps that were long enough to be worn on the outside of a diving suit. Given their limited supply and the tough conditions they were subjected to, these watches are very highly prized by collectors today.
The watch took its name, Radiomir, from the luminous material that Panerai first developed in 1910. Made of zinc sulphide and radium bromide, Radiomir allowed the numbers and hands on a watch to be read in dark conditions. It was replaced in 1949 by Luminor, which glows thanks to the presence of tritium, a less-dangerous compound than radium bromide.
Throughout the 1950s and ’60s, Panerai continued to produce wristwatches for the Italian Navy in regular and destro (left-handed) versions. Some watches from this period were known as Trittico watches, thanks to their trio of features, which included a depth gauge.
Panerai also made Kampfschwimmer watches, some with so-called California dials (numbers on the bottom, Roman numerals on the top), for Germany’s only postwar commando unit. And in 1956, Panerai created a large-face Radiomir watch for the Egyptian Navy.
Panerai might have remained a military diving watch in the minds of the public had it not been for Sylvester Stallone, who, in 1995, purchased a Luminor while on location in Italy. Sales of the watches jumped after its debut in Stallone’s “Daylight,” and Sly even had some watches—dubbed Slytech—made with his signature engraved on the back. These he gave as gifts to friends, including fellow action hero Arnold Schwarzenegger.
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Recent News: Panerai Watches
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Officine Panerai Adds Three Watches To Radiomir CollectionHaute Time, May 22nd
Apparently aware of the buzz that would surround the incredibly bold designs we saw the brand present during SIHH 2015, Panerai decided to wait a couple of months to launch the new Radiomir collection. But if the new watches seem less innovative on the ...Read more
Panerai Luminor Marina 8 Days Acciaio 44 mmMen's Up, May 21st
qui permettent d'accéder à tout l'univers Panerai, cette nouvelle Luminor Marina ravira les amateurs par sa fidélité aux codes de la marque. Avec cette esthétique très particulière – un robuste boitier acier doté d'un système protège-couronne...Read more
In perfect time: Watchmaker Officine Panerai on Middle East plansGulf Business News, May 19th
But if you understand your watches or are on the path to being a watch connoisseur, you will have heard of Officine Panerai. Founded in Florence in 1860 as a workshop, shop and school of watch making, Officine Panerai made its name as the watch that ...Read more
A Panerai clock for Expo 2015World Tempus, May 13th
A large Panerai wall clock, with the iconic minimalist design which makes every timepiece of the Florentine brand immediately recognisable, enables anyone entering the Info Point at the Expo Gate at Piazza Castello to read the time in Milan and five...Read more
Panerai — Radiomir 1940 3 Days Automatic Titanio 45mmWorldTempus, May 10th
Le boîtier est étanche jusqu'à 10 bars (environ 100m). Le cadran brun reprend la structure en sandwich créée par Panerai dans les années 1930, qui assure une visibilité et une lisibilité maximales. Le Super-LumiNova® écru lui confère un look rétro...Read more
Radiomir 1940 3 Days Automatic Titanio 45mmWorld Tempus (press release), May 10th
The brown dial is made with the characteristic sandwich construction created by Panerai in the 1930s to ensure the maximum visibility and legibility. The special Super-LumiNova® ecru gives the dial a vintage aspect. Also evoking the past of the brand...Read more
Panerai — Luminor Marina 8 Days Acciaio - 44mm (PAM00590)WorldTempus, May 5th
L'histoire de la maison Panerai a inspiré deux détails contribuant au minimalisme esthétique du cadran noir de la référence PAM00590: le compteur de petite seconde situé à neuf heures, signe caractéristique de tous les modèles Luminor Marina, ...Read more
Luminor Marina 8 Days Acciaio - 44mm (PAM00590)World Tempus (press release), May 5th
True to Panerai's navy heritage, the Luminor Marina 8 Days is water resistant to 300 meters. The water-resistance is ensured by the case's Type AISI 316L stainless steel, as this steel alloy is particularly resistant to corrosion. Panerai's iconic...Read more